I was driving and driving for a long time. The road had led me out of the main town long ago, and slowly it turned into a dirt road just enough for a field tractor to pass….
There aren’t any intersections and traffic lights on such roads…. in fact there is hardly any traffic that is not a stray motorbike, cattle or actual field tractors!
Settlements too tiny to be called a village pass by….. They are a typical scene…. A huge peepal or neem tree with sometimes a built “par” around….. A school or Grampanchayt building, few flex posters showing enlarged faces of local political leaders, a leaky community-tap…. kids playing….chickens pecking through mud….
And then the scene swiftly moves back…. leaving the roadsides lonely and barren…. Barren if you forget to notice golden rustling bands of grass that run along the road…. And lonely if you do not count solitary “bor” or “babhool” standing unashamedly green by your side in the scorching heat of summer!!
These country-scapes are part of my childhood since my scooter excursions with baba….. Maybe that is why I am never worried of country dirt roads… somehow their dusty scent is familiar.
By the time I reach that familiar tall cluster of bamboo, waving a cheery welcome, the city-stench from my body and mind is washed away…. A solitary dog lets out a low bark when I touch the fake-locked gate. I know at once that this has to be some new guest dog, unfamiliar to my scent.
Every time I open that fake-locked gate, I think of my first visit to this strange place….
Almost a year ago, when just like now, winter was warming up into early spring; I had stood at the same gate….. Eager and little scared. No, not scared of all the imposing number of dogs waiting to sniff me, but scared of facing two unknown humans beyond that gate!
I had pushed the gate open then… and walked in. I remember a huge dark Rottweiler running towards me and somehow in a minute I was sitting on sun baked, hot ground, while the so-called ferocious dog was scrambling to sit in my lap, which was far too small for her liking!! Dolly had monopolized me in a minute and I forgot to be scared of her. It just slipped my mind, when she looked up…. her dark, warm eyes held me with that absolute innocence, asking for nothing but love…..
Of course there were other contenders waiting to take a sniff at me…. an exceptionally sassy looking husky, Rimmy, took charge of another side of my lap, with her long silvery bottle brush tail whacking the rest of me! A tiny black pug ambled past these two large dogs, sniffing my toes quite authoritatively. Punch is an old pug… But never judge a weapon by its size…. Or age…. She is a tough granny that even big dogs bow to!!
Only after getting through this fuzzy, drooly introduction session, I was allowed to finally talk to the two humans who watched me with silent speculation in their otherwise friendly eyes…..
To them, I was probably, someone who belonged to the selfish, desensitized city culture that they had deliberately left behind…..
But for me their dogs were enough an introduction of what they were…..
“Creating a bond of friendship between a dog and his human” is what they are experts at. Training the humans to befriend their dogs is their job…. It gets them their bread, butter, books and yea…. Very very enviable life on a dog farm!!
Their own trained pack of dogs is a model example of how dogs should behave…. This dog team consisting of Dolly, Rimmy, Stone and punch also plays a pivotal part in training the newcomers, dogs and humans alike!
Though the place is called a Dog Training Center, is in fact a Dog-owners training center advocating secretly between its lines that “a dog simply responds to what a person really is”. It gets excited and agitated if the approaching person is of that temperament….
Meh, that explained why their dogs acted like demented puppies at my approach….
With time I figured out that I had more in common with these humans than just love for dogs….. We also loved food, dogs, music, dogs, coffee, dogs, books, dogs, earth construction, dogs and more dogs!
Had the outdoors been any less adventurous and playful, I would have gladly taken refuge to their little books corner that holds a bizarre collection on earth construction, ecology, bamboo and of course dogs!
Another corner of the Dog farm is a little nursery of bamboo saplings that holds a wide variety of this intriguingly useful grass. I did start remembering the names and identification of each species and slowly ran out of my excuse of memory….. It was rather easier to shut up and help with repotting those eager-to-grow baby bamboos.
Their log cabin house, built by hand, had been to me like what wonderland must have been to Alice! I had touched and felt every surface of earth floor and daubed walls…while trying to hide my pleasure and excitement as hopelessly as possible. They would eventually anyway know that I am weird enough to be pleased at the touch of mud…..
The backyard is overflowing with what normally people would call junk. But to an expert’s eye, it contains a remedy of every carpentry, construction or hardware emergency! It provides an excellent space for keeping our experimental earth blocks for curing, saplings that need to get seasoned and acclimatized…and such stuff of prime importance….
When I am being most useless, it is still fun to amble around after everyone, acting just like a crazed pup, listening to crazier stories and laughing at absolute nothing in specific!
But this is only a feeler of another muddy episode in my life….. Now with repeated visits and endless weekends behind us…. The dog farm has become my secret getaway….. The log house feels no more like a wonderland…. It feels like a friendly place…. Its soft paper lanterns twinkling at me…. So warm…. So assuring….
The dogs do not act crazed anymore…. Most of them hardly raise their chin up to give me, “oh, it’s just you after all” look before sinking into snores…..
After a day spent in mud for one reason or another, we walk the dogs… I get to walk the most behaved and peaceful ones, while the skilled humans take charge of bullies and guest dogs.
When the air is all gold and red with sunset…. We all sit out with our coffee mugs….. Dolly and Rimmy softly settle themselves on our toes. Their warm fur feels soothing while winter air turns bitingly cold with sundown….
Punch, the pug wobbles into someone’s lap and resumes snoring….
A resident pair of wild lizards slithers out from the crevices in log cabin wall, scurrying over the garden net stretched over bamboo nursery. It is time for them to feed their scaly reptilian stomachs with a buffet of insects attracted by our paper lanterns.
I do not remember when or why, but we have christened the lizards as Jodha and Akbar, after the famous historic mughal royalty! They are our neighbors and not to be feared unless someone accidentally attempts to sit on them…..
It is so hard to get up from there and drive back into the blinding city lights….. so hard to jump back into the ruthless, senseless race of rats after spending a day with warm hearted dogs and real humans….. so hard to live through another week of phone calls, presentations, deadlines, paperwork, grocery bills, petrol fills, traffic lights and endless honking that contaminates my bloodstream all over again….. Until I hit the dusty roads for another weekend…..
I am expecting, someday I will have enough of this urban contamination and probably find a way to never return to the city ever again….